From the very beginning of Tears of a Tiger, we're asked to think about the idea of death. Robbie's death in the accident makes pretty much every character confront the fact that they are not immortal, a realization that surprises and scares the teens, who don't have much experience dealing with death. These kids don't feel invincible any longer, though, that's for sure. Plus Andy struggles with the value of his own life throughout the book, and ultimately decides to commit suicide. In short, death's on nearly every page of this book, Shmoopers.
Andy thinks that his life will get easier by dying, but it actually just ends his and makes everyone around him have a harder time.
Robbie and Andy's deaths are equally tragic, though one was an accident and the other was a suicide.
Pretty much every student in Tears of a Tiger feels guilty at some point. Tyrone feels badly for having beer and thinking everything was funny the night of the accident; B.J. blames himself for not stopping the others from drinking; Keisha feels guilty for not sticking by Andy when he needed it. And Andy? He's got more than enough guilt to go around. That guy doesn't let himself feel anything but blame for Robbie's death. Plus, he's the only one who doesn't come to terms with his guilt.
Eventually, the other characters learn to accept their part in Robbie's death or deal with the blame they feel each day, but not Andy. He keeps blaming himself until he can't take it any more.
The thing Andy is guiltiest of never even crosses his mind: He fails to invest in the life he's lucky enough to walk away from the accident with.
Andy's guilt over Robbie's death is completely justified. In fact, it's unfair that so many people want to let him get away with causing Robbie's death.
Tears of a Tiger depicts ordinary Americans who happen to be black—and, to some degree, explores how race impacts their lives. For the most part, race is a latent backdrop in the novel. Most of the time we're focused on the aftermath of the accident, and how Andy deals with it. However, part of his recovery process is talking about how he is treated differently because he's black—and his relationship with his identity as a black person is a point of conflict and distance for Andy with his family. And this distance, of course, is part of why Andy feels so alone.
Even though Andy experiences some racial stereotyping, he often brings teacher's assumptions and treatment on himself by acting out and forgetting assignments.
Andy may experience racism, but ultimately the biggest problem race presents is within his own family unit.
Tears of a Tiger is the equivalent of a bro hug—think: gruff affection and hearty back pats, plus a little teasing tossed in on the side. But things go horribly wrong when Robbie dies in a car crash one night, leaving Andy all alone with a heavy dose of guilt. Andy's friendship with Robbie was one of the only good things in his life he could count on, and when that disappears, so does a lot of other good stuff in his life. In fact, Andy feels all alone. The other guys are totally down to be his pal still, but Andy just can't hang once Robbie's gone.
Even though friendship is important to Andy, he throws away his friends after the accident.
The rest of Andy's friends are great and all, but none of them stand a chance at measuring up to Robbie.
If you're looking for drugs and alcohol in Tears of a Tiger, you don't have to go very far—like, not even past the first page. There, you'll find the police report detailing that the guys were drinking the night of the accident. You might not think a couple of beers are a big deal—and neither did the guys—but these drinks ruin their lives. They go from being on a total high after winning a basketball game to losing their friend and struggling to get by. Alcohol might not get poured after that night, but we sure hear a lot about it and how it's made the boys feel long term.
The main point of this book is to show readers just how far-reaching the impact of drinking and driving is. It doesn't just cause one death, after all, it causes two.
Alcohol has nothing to do with Andy's death—instead, he commits suicide exclusively because he can't cope.
Who's afraid of the dark? In Tears of a Tiger, a lot of people are. Over and over again, we see the light give in to darkness in the novel. When Andy tells us how he's feeling through poetry or his therapy sessions, he always comes back to the idea of darkness. It's partly tied to his notion of race and the colors used to symbolize racial identity, but there's more to Andy's use of dark and light than racial stereotypes. In fact, he often uses it to describe what's going on with him emotionally. Pretty soon, we get a sense of how he's feeling just by how light it is around him.
Andy might live in the darkness, but he does so voluntarily by choosing not to deal with his issues.
Keisha's positivity creates a lightness that contrasts with Andy's darkness, but even she can't pull him out of his depression.
Andy isolates himself after the accident. That's pretty much all we needed to say about the theme of isolation in Tears of a Tiger.
Just kidding, we'll go on. When Andy feels overwhelmed by guilt after Robbie's death, he relies on Keisha to get him through. And boy, does she do her fair share—she listens to him anytime and puts up with his random mood swings. But she can't do this forever, and pretty soon, Andy is without Keisha, and feels like he's without anyone else, too.
It turns out many people are there for Andy (Tyrone, B.J., Rhonda, to name a few), but he just doesn't realize it. So instead of actually being isolated, isolation is something Andy brings upon himself, to his own detriment. Big time.
Andy is alone in the end because he pushes everyone else away—ultimately, he only has himself to blame for his isolation.
Andy's friends really drop the ball: They should have recognized the uniqueness of Andy's position as the person driving, and insisted on helping him through his grief.
Andy's choices aren't so hot in Tears of a Tiger. First they lead to Robbie's death, then he stays on a path of destruction instead of getting help, and ultimately, Andy makes the choice to end his own life. So if we're thinking about what choices define our main man, we come up with a list of not-so-great ones. We're not trying to rag on Andy—he does that plenty himself—but we think it's important to point out that his choices leave him in a desperate state with few options. After all, other people suffer in the book, too, but none of them commit quite the way Andy does.
Andy's choices in life are erased after the accident—depression officially takes over the show.
While the accident is a tragedy, Andy consistently chooses not to try to get himself back on track.